Monday, July 16, 2012

My First "Viral" Experience and What I Learned From It

Sometimes when you finish writing a piece, you get a certain feeling. A good feeling. It's a feeling that makes you think, "I may have hit a home run with that one." Last Monday, I got that feeling with "10 Bruce Lee Quotes That Can Improve Your Writing." I hit the publish button and crossed my fingers, hoping that sensation would translate to happy readers and perhaps a few more hits than usual. For the most part, that's what I got. 

The comments I received that week told me that most of you guys and gals (who are awesome) seemed to enjoy the article, and my pageviews were even a little higher than average--but only by a little. And that was just fine by me. I went about my week as usual, thankful for the small nudge and looking forward to writing the next entry.

Then late Friday night, I logged in to take a quick gander at things and saw this:

Pageviews (in Gazillionty Bajillions)

In the space of a few hours, my blog had garnered more views than in the entire month of June combined. "Oh my," thought I. "Something has happened." 

That something turned out to be my first taste of a semi-viral blog entry. After some investigation, I found that my Bruce Lee article had been discovered and shared by a few folks on twitter, eventually finding its way to @AdviceToWriters, who tweeted it to more than a hundred thousand people. That one tweet got over a hundred retweets, and my link ended up being passed around by tons of people, most of whom I'd never met or spoken to before. 

To say I was pleasantly surprised would be a vast understatement. I really can't tell you how thankful I am that so many people enjoyed my post enough to share it with their friends and followers. Seriously, thank youNow that the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled, the question is what have I learned from the experience? Allow me to tell you in list form:

Everybody Likes a Good List

But we already knew that. Yeah? I mean, you're reading one right now.

Enhance Your Content With Yourself

For a long while, I've been debating just how much I should stray away from the topic of writing and veer into my other interests. Before that Bruce Lee article, I'd considered writing about my martial arts obsession many times over, but I'd usually end up talking myself out of it. After all, most of my readership comes from the writing community, so it probably wouldn't serve to talk about something that might turn them off. 

Then it occurred to me that I could have the best of both worlds. The answer lied in finding a way to combine my interest in martial arts with my blog's primary subject. It worked, and resulted in my most popular entry to date by a long shot. So don't be afraid to bring more of yourself to the table.

Attack From Different Angles

I love writing about the craft, but let's be honest: there's already a lot of great writing advice out there. It's a subject that has been explored very thoroughly over the years, and I'm not exactly preaching from the same pulpit as Stephen King or Ray Bradbury. In many ways, I'm still a n00b myself. This can present a challenge. 

No one wants to regurgitate content that's already readily available, and no one wants to read the same thing over and over again in different places. Embracing the previous item on this list allowed me to come at my subject from an angle I might never have thought of otherwise. I think one of the reasons so many people liked that article is because it delivered common, easily digestible advice that was flavored by its unique approach. Uniqueness is attractive, and it shows.

Social Media Works . . . When It Wants To

For the most part I'd already embraced Twitter, but after my experience this past weekend, I'm even more convinced of how powerful it can be. It was crazy to look at my "Bruce Lee" search stream and watch tons of people I'd never met link to my blog in real time.

But the interesting part of this experience is that it wasn't a tweet of my own that got the ball rolling. I did tweet about the article shortly after I posted it, but the "viral" snowball happened days later, without any action on my part. In other words, self-promotion didn't mean didly in this instance. The links were spreading on the merit of the article alone. So if you want to go viral, worry about how strong your content is before worrying about how well you're promoting it.

Forge a Title that Catches Eyes

I'd be remiss if I ignored the obvious fact that "10 Bruce Lee Quotes That Can Improve Your Writing" is an eye-catching title. While I had no idea just how many eyes it would ultimately catch, I knew that my homerun swing began with those first nine words. If you'd like to follow suit, be sure to craft a title that is simple, to the point, and enticing to the reader.

Bruce Lee is Awesome and Everybody Knows It

I mean, seriously. The man beat up Chuck Norris for crying out loud!


Thanks again to everyone who was tossing my link around. I hope some of you have chosen to stick around and see what else I have to offer. I'll do my best not to disappoint. 

24 comments:

  1. That's fantastic! I agree with the whole personal angle point especially - some of my most popular posts have been the ones that veer off from strict "writerly" topics and integrate some of my other interests.

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    1. It's definitely something I'm going to make an effort to do more of! Thanks for stopping by, Louise.

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  2. Hmm... my first comment got swallowed by the Blog-monster. *nom-nom*

    I love this post a hundred different ways!

    The Bruce Lee list of quotes totally deserved the attention, it was great! The lessons you listed are absolutely valid, and you got right to the core of it all which is fantastic, and on top of that your decision to include more of your own personal interests into blogging (relating them to your writing and what you learn along the way) is pure awesomeness!

    And you've nudged me into giving heed to my fidgety desire to include more of my interests (however weird) into da blog, along with everything else. So how's that for timing! :D

    Thank you, J.W. san!

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    1. Thanks so much, Vero. Glad I could be of service! I'm more than happy to share what I learn along the way.

      Can't wait to see your weird interests and how you weave them into your blog. ;)

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  3. Glad that garnered you so many blog visits! Sometimes it's difficult to predict what draw the masses. MY IWSG posts tend to draw a lot, and that page on my blog is the most viewed. (And my post with the most comments, 220, I almost scraped!)
    Good to know I don't have to promote my own stuff, because I never enjoy that.

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    1. Who does, right? I hate feeling like a spam bot! You're right, sometimes it's tough to know what will draw the masses--but it's a nice feeling to take a risk and see it pay off in a huge way.

      Thanks for reading, Alex!

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  4. I hope in continues to bring you hits, too! I have one blog entry, no matter how many posts I create, that will never be out done because for every page view my other posts get, it gets 20. It's the most popular post on my blog, "My Top Ten Pet Peeves of the Romance Novel"

    :D

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    1. I can see why that one would get a lot of hits! Bruce's entry has slowed down substantially since the weekend, but it's still accumulating views here and there. It will be a hell of a job trying to top it, that's for sure!

      Thanks, Diane!

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  5. So true. I must say I love the fresh approach you took, and now it's inspired me to look for some fresh approaches too.

    ^_^

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    1. Awesome, Misha! Can't wait to see what you come up with. Thanks for reading.

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  6. Congrats on your viral experience (I don't think I've ever said *that* to anyone before!)Now I'm off to read your Bruce Lee post.

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  7. Those blue spikes are nice. :) And you're right about random stuff going viral. A writer friend of mine posted some 70's department store catalog pictures on her blog as a break from her usual, and it got the most hits of anything she'd ever posted (and she's done some pretty awesome posts).

    Now that I've gotten posting craft topics off my chest, I'm trying hard to vary my topics and keep them brief whenever possible. I'm learning from experience that the deeper I get into social media, the less time I have to read blog posts and articles. I enjoy breaks from and clever takes on the craft. Kudos on your Bruce Lee post. :)

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    1. I'm with you on the time thing. Social media and keeping up with the blogger community can be a lot of work. I constantly feel like I'm doing a poor job of keeping up with everyone's blogs and touching base when I can.

      Thanks, Melissa!

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  8. The Bruce Lee post was full of win. I wish I had something more clever to say about it, but my creativity well is about tapped for the day!

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    1. Ha ha, that's plenty. Thanks so much, justbishop.

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  9. I had to get my butt in gear and over here to read this post! First off, congrats on the viral! :D I shall do a little happy dance in your honor:

    ~~~happy-happy-twirl-highkick~~~

    Secondly, you nailed it, J.W. -> CONTENT FIRST. If it's not "good stuff," it's probably not going anywhere in the socialsphere.

    Lastly, you (and Vero) are right about combining your writing and your interests in your blogging. I think in the end, you'll forge strong relationships as a result. :)

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    1. Ha, thanks for the happy dance. I did a couple myself last weekend!

      I'm learning about all of this as I go, but it's great to see positive results when taking a chance on something. What's funny is that when I started this blog, I told myself I wouldn't stick to a theme. Then, as it went along I ended up doing it anyway, mainly due to the writing communities I was involved in. Then I woke up and realized I could step outside the box a little and I was instantly rewarded for it. What a way to learn a lesson. :)

      Thanks for stopping by, Tracy!

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  10. As I work partly in the PR field, I'll happily validate your comments. Old media is dead--readers are looking more and more to the internet now, and what they want from the internet is searchability. Title your media (in this case your blog) correctly--make sure it reflects what you are posting about. Market in the right locations (Twitter is VERY hot right now.) And tag, tag, tag. Readers use the search engine as their primary tool for infomation, so tagging appropriately will certainly earn more traffic. Also--listing the most important information first is a big thing. Last but not least--show how the reader can benefit from your post--make it about them as well as about yourself.

    You do all of this consistently every week and that's a great thing. Keep on doing what you're doing, JW! You're on your way to fame.

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    1. It's nice to hear I'm doing the right things from someone who knows what they're talking about. I don't know if fame is the end goal for me, but if people like what I'm putting out there, I'll be happy.

      Thanks, Randi!

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  11. Wow awesome! Hope you get some new regular readers out of it. I've had that happen, but with work I'd done for others. Still it's a good feeling. Congrat!

    Renee

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    1. Thanks, Renee! It's a great feeling for sure. Hopefully that lightning will strike more than once.

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  12. Congrats J.W. That headline s magnetic and there's a lot to learn from your experience. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. No problem, Maurice! Thanks for reading.

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Thanks for reading!

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